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Monologue by Richard Wenly

Wenly, Richard
Jung, Hye-Jin
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Cultural Identification; Stories and Storytellers
Richard Wenly talks about how his curiosity has taught him new things about other people throughout the world.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Hye-Jin Jung interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
RW (Richard Wenly): Good Afternoon. Uh, I understand that you are interested in some stories that I heard as a very young boy. Uh, thinking of some of them now uh, one of them was uh, Three Bears. The Mama Bear, the Papa Bear, and uh, the Baby Bear, and of course they struggled a long competent from each other. I heard that story a long time ago, and it is, uh, it has stuck with me. Uh, also another one was uh, "The Raven" the poem "The Raven" uh, that we read in school and uh, we had to determine what it was about, and um, it wasn't easy at first for us to do that, and that, that story or poem went something like this, "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, over many a quaint and forgotten lore, while I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as if some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door, it is some visitor I said only this, and," uh, "nothing more." Of course the story went on for several pages. And we were to tell what it was about and uh, and uh, I don't think any of us in that class really came up with the answer. Teacher finally told us that it was, it was a bird. Uh, my family did not uh, all they [pause] told were some stories but, but they usually talk about past experiences uh, when they were growing up uh, when they were courting, and uh, during their early years of marriage, and uh, this kind of thing. I can remember uh, some of those stories now, uh, my mother would tell the story of a my uh, great grandmother, my grandmother sitting in the door of living room, when uh, my daddy would go to see her, before they got married and, and of course she would sit there until they leave, and sometimes she would act as though she was sleeping and got rather quiet, she would ( ). In other words, I went to the conclusion that there was strict supervision of, of teenagers uh, while they were under the influence of their parents. Uh, [pause] I would like to tell you about some traveling that I've done. I've been to uh, to counseling conferences at University of Michigan, no it was at Michigan State University, at East Lansing, Michigan. Uh, and the purpose of these three visits was a conference on counseling third world students. And, of course, the goal of this, uh, these sessions was to help individuals to become more familiar with uh, some of the uh, concerns and problems that uh, they may have due to language uh, new country and ability to uh, interpret what's happening around them. Um, we had a lot of good speakers and we had representation from uh, a large number of different ethnic groups, and uh, this proved to be very beneficial, and the most important thing to me was while I was there I read in the library a, a book that listed scholarships that have been listed and given out by the ( ) foundation, and they listed uh, a couple of people who were on Michigan State's campus as uh, individuals who had served as readers for uh, the proposals that were sent. So, immediately, as soon as possible, rather, I got on the phone and I called over to Justine Morrow School and I got a chance to talk with the director who knew about the uh workings of ( ) foundations and grants. I went in to conference with them, and I went over to uh, talk with them in person and explain to him what I wanted to do and showed me how I could incorporate the mandates of uh, scholarship that I was trying to get, the fellowship. Uh, and to a study uh, an experience related event. So it boiled down and I ended up working on uh the national design of uh, experiences that would help students from small areas make the transition from rural to uh, to larger cities, in eastern North Carolina and of course I based that on the basis of high percentage of individuals who left the area after college and went to larger cities many of them succeeded more than we would like to. I guess basic problems in the transition from uh, small towns and rural areas to uh, the large cities. So, I wrote this proposal to do this and I got an interview from one of the readers who was from Kentucky and I met him in Greensboro, he interviewed me. In three or four weeks later, I was notified that I had received, which was for one year of study at uh, Temple University and it offered a stipend of $7,000. Uh, this was quite helpful uh, to me and also uh, while I was there I received a grant to uh, improve minority scholars on uh, predominately minority campuses which was known as AEP, Advancement of Education of Personnel, and of course this was given out on four different campuses, Bowie, Coppin, Livingstone, and Elizabeth City State uh, colleges and maybe one or two others and we would, they would send four people in the summer for study and two would return for the winter and two would stay and by doing this uh, each person in the group was able to get in their one year residency and continue studies. Uh, by uh, taking at least one semester off campus with continuous education and of course uh, returning in the summer, courses that were taken off campus when we return to our respective campuses had to be approved and they sent a professor to these campus to uh, interview us two or three times a year as to the progress that uh, we were making toward the uh, plan of study that we had made. OK uh, so guess you've decided by now that, that I did not have it easy growing up, in fact I did not expect to get the opportunities that I received but by making necessary contacts, good contacts, and uh, meeting people who were movers and shakers and could influence my career, I was able to build on that and uh, and to get a terminal degree at uh, Temple University in urban education, which helped me when I returned to my own campus to move from counseling to uh, social science education, and uh, study in a society professor moving into the position of professorship uh, with tenure before I left. So uh, these are some good things that I think I uh, happen to good people. There is a book I've heard individuals lecture upon and I've read some of it myself, Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People? And this is true, everybody does not uh, deserve unfortunate things that happen to them. But it is my philosophy that a lot of good things happen to uh, good people and that more than likely they will happen to good people, because they will be on the right track. Now, um, uh, [pause] these, these ideas have stuck with me through the years and I guess there is a combination of stories that I've heard, speeches that I've heard, and uh, and of course books that I've read. But I remember when I was in college at A&T State University, W.O. Kerrington speaking uh, and he used for a subject that for every soul open its own way ( ). And he went on to say that high soul chooses the high way, the low soul chooses the low way. And in the midst, is the misty flats which most people choose, and then he went on to talk about the middle road being crowded uh, the low road meeting destruction, and disappointment, tragedy. But, the high road leading to success and opportunities and even then, though we were quite young, he challenged us it seemed to get through that if we selected the high road that benefits had the possibilities of being numerous and sometimes when I'm out alone, when test and trials come, those words come to me, [pause] a group of words were uttered by ( ) that we were expected to learn and we were expected and required in high school to learn poems, to read poems and try to interpret poems that we could think of, and one of them was by Kipling, which was "If" and I don't recall all of it now, but it went on to say that, "If you can dream and not make your dreams your master, if you can think and not make your thoughts your aim, you can meet with triumph and disaster. Treat those two imposters just the same." And it goes on the say that if you can do all these things, yours is the world and all that is in it. And what is more that you will be a man or woman in life. ( ) That was meant to be nonexistent language at that time. Uh, so that has been a source of inspiration to me. Sometimes when I might have a, have exploded, used other approaches, I sought to keep my head when it seemed like everybody else was not thinking at the moment. What inspires one individual uh, may inspire another and may inspire something else. These, these are things that, that I would like to share with and I will tell you look at about my background. Let's see, my mother taught in the schools of North Carolina for 30 some years, over 35 years and my father uh, was a minister and uh, I have three brothers, no sisters and have always wished that I had sisters so that I can understand maybe girls a little bit better than I do. Ladies but, uh, that's the way it came out. We were a loving family. We did a lot of, most things together, worked together, we grew up in a rural area and we worked together, we ate together, we uh, went shopping together. We went to church together and uh, that bonded us to the extent that we have remained relatively close though gone our separate ways to different parts of country uh, because of that early loving and care, and concern. We were taught and soon acquired being concerned about each, each other. Played with animals, grew plants. This has helped me uh, as I've gone out on my own to be able to grow plants and find enjoyment and relaxation, working in that area when I can find time to do so. I would not want to get anyone to cut my grass and thought they would do it free because I enjoy doing it myself. I did go to the Philippines. When I graduated from uh, from Temple University as a present for my graduation, I spent 30 days there, I visited the embassy, I met some individuals. I got an opportunity to uh, school with them. Which they would go out into the bars, I think they called it in Manila, and on the weekend I spent one weekend there I had a chance to taste the foods, uh, to sleep under the uh, net, see little bit of a cock fight. To go to the swimming to pool and to make um, very beautiful pictures. And I found uh, [pause] I found everybody was very warm toward uh, me as an American. I don't know why I would do that by myself. I went by myself, basically without one, in a tour group and my visit after I got there. I didn't have any problems except uh, when I was getting ready to leave it was in the monsoon season. It was raining very hard. When the cab came to the hotel to take me to the airport I had my pull off my shoes and socks and wade halfway up my legs to get to the airport. Once I got to there, I dried them up and put them on. It wasn't very long before the plane was in and we headed back to the United States through the way of Guam and laid in Hawaii and California, Washington DC and uh, back to Norfolk, Virginia. So, that I shall always cherish and it helped me to understand other cultures and helped me to appreciate the uh, opportunities that I had in the United States. Uh, I hope to return to work uh, the in an embassy level position with some of those that would go on the international teams of teachers, doctors and so forth. But uh, the Iranian Crisis, hostage crisis, took place a few months after that and I was never able to get that, that off, but I had a vision, I had a desire to return again. Well, never done anything like this before but I hope that I said something like that uh, will help you to understand what it is like to grow up in uh, North Carolina and uh, the values that are perpetuated are taught, by good, well-thinking parents and the love and concern for each other that is expressed in many ways. Uh, nobody, nobody had lost to make us treat each other right. But at that time women were put on a pedestal and treated with the highest degree of respect and they were devout and loving to their husband and they didn't feel anybody was putting something on them and becoming unnecessarily agitated uh, because somebody didn't do something according to term. Uh, we had ( ) School was a happy place, place for play, we had limited supervision at a small high school and students basically uh, loved the teachers. The teachers lived in the community, primarily; they visited the churches. And sometimes members of the churches that students went to. So, they saw the students in non-academic settings as well as in academic settings. They knew the parents and of course they had the confidence of the parents and um, students tried to do the right things because they did not want their teachers to tell um, their mother on them. Because if they did, the mother wouldn't curse the teacher out, she, she would penalize the student in some way and um, most students didn't even have to go through that because they did the right thing because it was the right thing to do. And never heard of fights, well we had some little fist fights but not with guns and that kind of thing uh until very recently in the area I grew up and I still haven't heard of it happening there, but I've heard of it happening in other parts of North Carolina and the United States. But uh, parents spent a lot of time at that time with um, their children. I think this is, this is the key and missing ingredient, many of them are busy working everyday. They have other problems, they have children while they are young. They want to socialize and many times the children left to fend for themselves and to make choices and of course they fail to make the proper choices. Role models, certainly are needed in our communities and uh, in our schools also uh, because students mirror what they hear and what they see. Uh, and if they see adults doing some other things they we, accuse them for, uh, they figure that this is cool. These individuals become their heroes, and uh, they try to emulate them. Uh, one final thing that I must mention is religion was more of an important factor in the lives of young people when I was a teenager. Growing up, almost everybody went to church and students went with them and it sure didn't make them perfect, but it seem to uh, place some fear in their minds, some people today I think have no fear, even fear of death. They think they're going to come back, it's some temporary vacation and they don't realize when they use violence or they when they overdose how permanent it is. So if we don't, people have different tendency of churches and religions, Judaism, Hinduism, ( ), Christianity and then you have Atheist. But if we don't use any of those, uh, we need something that can cause us to think and let us know that we are not really masters of our own fate, captains of our own souls, but uh, that we are dispensable, that we are passing through here for a short period of time. It's important to make our mark in the sand and one way to do it certainly is to live a decent life and uh, if we can do that and add education competencies and skills that we can help lift someone else then uh, we would come to the end of the road with joy and happiness I think uh, saying that we have helped to make the world better. Thank you.